Philly hitmakers mark 20 years of success with new album, anniversary concert
Philadelphia natives Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman and Nate Morris, collectively known as the 13-time Grammy Award-winning vocal group Boyz II Men, will celebrate their 20th anniversary with a concert at the Temple Performing Arts Center (formerly Baptist Temple), 1837 N. Broad Street, at 8 p.m., Saturday 17.
The best-selling R&B group of all time, Boyz II Men originally formed as a quintet, which also included Mike McCary and Marc Nelson, while the members were all students at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. Nelson, however, left to pursue a solo career before the group cut its first studio album.
The group was discovered by New Edition member Michael Bivins and released its debut album, “Cooleyhighharmony,” in 1991, featuring the joyous dance tune “Motownphilly.” A cavalcade of hits would follow, including “End of the Road,” “I’ll Make Love to You” and “One Sweet Day.” In the ensuing years, Boyz II Men would capture 16 American Music Awards, nine Soul Train Awards, three MTV Awards and three Billboard Awards. Bass singer McCary retired from the group in 2004 due to a chronic back ailment.
In a recent interview, Nate Morris reflected on the highs and lows of an amazing 20 year career, saying, “It feels pretty old, but it’s all good, right? I mean, it was all one big blur! The years just flew by. Just yesterday we were at the High School for Performing Arts — this morning I dropped by son off there. My son is 15!”
In addition to marking 20 years in show business, the gala concert on the campus of Temple University will also be Boyz II Men’s first charity event.
“We just thought with it being the 20th anniversary, it was the best time to kick off our charity, which is called the Boyz II Men House and helps support people in need,” Morris explained. “Whether it’s disaster relief, whether it’s building playgrounds in urban areas, whether it’s public housing — whatever it’s possible to do, that’s what we support. This is our first year.”
In addition to benefiting this worthy cause, Morris promises that the evening will be special, in that the group will be performing with Temple University’s 34-piece orchestra.
“It’s going to be different, because most people have never seen Boyz II Men or heard Boyz II Men music with a live orchestra before,” said Morris. “We’ve taken this tour on the road before, but it’s only been internationally that we’ve done dates, and the Asian region, which have done very well. So we thought to make it special, other than just doing a regular old Boyz II Men concert, we decided to bring the orchestra out here, and people really seem to be excited about it.”
Boyz II Men fans should also be excited about the group’s upcoming album “Twenty,” which is scheduled for release October 25. Available exclusively at Walmart and online, the 20-track disc will feature 12 new, original songs and eight “re-recordings” of some of Boyz II Men’s timeless hits.
“A lot of people think that we’ve kind of been dormant because they haven’t seen us a lot, but the truth is that we do about 110 shows a year, whether they be domestic or international, so we’ve always been a touring a group,” Morris said. “We’ve just stayed out of the record business for a minute because it’s taken a minute for the record industry to decide that they really want to hear R&B music again. So in our case, we’ve got to see what the industry and what the public calls for. There are a lot of things that we’d like to do, but if it doesn’t work with what the status quo is, then it doesn’t make sense. So we just try our best to do what we love to do, but make sure it fits in with the status quo.”
While there admittedly have been bumps in the road along the way, Morris is most proud of Boyz II Men’s longevity, and to this day remains in contact with Michael Bivins. “I’m just proud that we were able to do what we’ve done,” Morris said. “Who knew that the biggest R&B group in the history of mankind would come from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Who knew that? We went to the High School for Performing Arts, we sang, and we did what we loved to do, and that was pretty much the gist of it. Anything else that came along was extra, so all of this is a plus for us. If you ask for one particular thing, I think for me, 20 years in the business would probably be the biggest feat, considering all of the things that we’ve gone through and the way the industry has changed. People have grown up with different lives and families, and things like that tend to pull a group apart, so for us to still want to do this and be around each other for 20 years, that’s a feat in itself.”
Morris credits Boyz II Men’s loyal following of 60 million fans with the group’s success and said in conclusion, “For us, they’re the lifeline to what we do. The reason why we try to stay true to the type of music that we make is because of the people that bought it 20 years ago.”
For tickets and information to the Boyz II Men 20th Anniversary Concert, call 1 (800) 298-4200 or visit Boyz II Men.com and comcastTix.com.
It was truly a celebration Saturday evening at the Temple University Performing Arts Center as Boyz II Men put on a performance that was anything but ordinary. Known for their smooth harmonies and undeniable hit records the group performed timeless classics, from “Four Seasons” and “On Bended Knees” to “Water Runs Dry” with a touch of orchestral elegance, courtesy of the Temple University Ester Boyer College of Music 34-piece orchestra.
On this night, celebration and charity went hand-in-hand. In addition to commemorating the group’s 20th year anniversary, the concert was the launch event for the Boyz II Men House. The foundation bearing the group’s name was created to lend support to individuals and organizations that focus on improving quality of life and help unlock human potential, while contributing to the health and vitality of those less fortunate. A limited number of exclusive VIP tickets were available in the store section of Boyz II Men’s brand new mobile app. All the proceeds from the ticket sales for the night went to the charity as well as the raffle drawing that took place during the post-show reception and listening party.
Surrounded by family, friends and dedicated fans, the group’s selection of songs evoked a wide range of emotions among the audience. For those who have seen the guys in concert before, this show was extra unique in the sense that they had never performed an entire concert with an orchestra. It added a classical and refined element to the performance that was unquestionably fit for the occasion. No matter the song, their energy could be felt throughout the room, from the balcony to the front row seats.
Ladies rushed the stage for a chance to grab one of the roses given out by the group as they crooned their classic, “I’ll Make Love to You.” By this point, both men and women in the crowd were swaying and singing every word, couples grabbed their lover’s hands and held them closer while singles belted out the tune as if it was written especially for them.
“A Song for Mama” pulled at the heartstrings of the listeners as the group began the song with heartfelt dedications to their mothers, who in turn made their way to the stage.
“End of the Road” finished out the group’s very special, milestone charity concert that started with a standing ovation and ended just the same.
“It was an epic night with our family, friends and fans. We will never forget it. A great way to raise money for our charity, The Boyz II Men House,” said Shawn Stockman.
Afterwards, those who attended the post-show reception had the opportunity to get a sneak peek of “Twenty,” the forthcoming album set for release on Oct. 25, as well as mix and mingle with the guys during a meet-and-greet. Sold exclusively through Wal-mart, the album features 10 all new tracks plus 10 re-recordings of Boyz II Men’s iconic hits. Over 200 guests excitedly spilled into the reception area to hear what the guys had been working on and the crowd was far from disappointed.
Given the monumental success of their albums and the timeless quality of their vocals, it’s easy to see why Boyz II Men remains the most popular R&B group of all time.
Diamond selling- multiplatinum Grammy winning group, Boyz II Men celebrates 20 hit-making years with their brand new album, “Twenty” released last week exclusively at Wal-Mart and digital retailers everywhere. “We started with a pure love for music, so to be here 20 years later still doing what we love has been a pure blessing” said Wanya Morris of the trio.
The group’s tenor and judge on hit breakout show NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” Shawn Stockman remarked “From day one our fans have been amazing, they’ve seen us grow from boys to men, so we owe all our success to their continued support.”
The Boyz have also launched the “The Boyz II Men Mobile App” (for iPhone & Android smartphones) for the group’s over 60 million fans to be the first to hear about new music, videos and concerts. “Using the iPhone App, our fans will be able to continue to watch us grow,” said Nathan Morris. “We have been around for 20 years, so we think the iPhone App is a great way to reach out to a new generation of fans.”
As newly announced inductees to receive their star on the world famous “Hollywood Walk Of Fame,” Boyz II Men’s new studio album features brand new material for the first time in 10 years and collaborations from hit producers such as Babyface, Teddy Riley, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. The double CD album set will contain 12 brand new songs plus eight newly recorded and updated versions of Boyz II Men classics, including “End Of The Road,” “I’ll Make Love To You,” and “Bended Knee,” amongst others that spawned the birth of one of the most successful singing groups of all time.
For the past two decades, the Boyz have been crafting classic albums whose appeal has withstood the test of time. And what is the secret to Stockman and his band mates’ stellar success? “I think it’s respect: respect for each other’s abilities, for what we each bring to the table, respect for each other as men,” Stockman explains. “We try to give each other space, room to breathe, room to grow — because we’re not just Boyz II Men, we’re also husbands and fathers, sons and brothers, members of our communities. At this point, there are no egos: We know we all built this thing together and we’re all in it together.”